Seniors at Austin’s Bowie High School have always been allowed to paint designs on their reserved parking spots – until students of color started expressing themselves a bit too boldly.
One student, whose chosen remain anonymous, is now alleging Bowie Principal Mark Robinson told her to make it obvious her painting of the Taj Mahal was not a mosque; insinuating that showing pride for Muslims would be frowned upon.
The student, who is actually from India, said the design was previously approved by school staff and Robinson only recently informed her it was not allowed.
Senior Kennedy Hartman says when she submitted a painting meant to be a self-portrait of herself, showing an African-American girl wearing a shirt that reads “Black Girl Magic,” school staff didn’t feel comfortable with the phrase, and only approved the design after she removed it.
“Saying black girl magic is like feeling empowering about yourself and feeling like you can accomplish anything as a black girl,” Hartman explained. “A predominantly white school is telling me, whose staff is predominantly white, is telling me I can’t put black girl magic on there.”
In stark contrast to the responses to mosques and Black pride, the district approved a “blue lives matter” flag and multiple parking spots with bible verses painted on them with no issue or pushback.
Brooke Wilkerson wrote Romans 12:21 on her parking spot, which is, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
“As a Christian student I can put my Bible verse, but as someone who believes in Allah and worships Islam, the religion, they should be able to put whatever they want on their parking spot,” Wilkerson said.
Multiple students at Austin’s Bowie High say they were told to change the paintings on their senior high parking spot because administrators said they were too religious. Meantime there are multiple with bible versus that didn’t get rejected. pic.twitter.com/z5E81XHjNJ
— Tom Miller (@TomMillerKXAN) September 11, 2018
The parking sports are supposed to be a perk for students with good attendance and seniors can pay $50 to have them custom painted.
AISD spokesperson Cristina Nguyen wrote in a statement, “The spots are a privilege for eligible students, however, all parking spot designs are subject to approval and cannot include religious symbolism.”
Despite that response, critics have pointed out that the school’s guidelines and procedures do not mention what cannot be included, and only say the painting should be “…a design that reflects your interests, shows your school spirit, or simply an interesting or creative design.”
The school is also disputing Hartman’s claims and said it has no record of a request to write “Black Girl Magic” being denied.